Esperanza in Uganda! - Part One
This past September, Krista (long time Esperanza Volunteer) and Patrick (new Esperanza Volunteer) embarked on a journey of a lifetime. They were sent off to Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa stricken by war and poverty, to lead soap making workshops for women in poor villages and a refugee camp. The Esperanza team had been invited by Favor of God, a nonprofit working with impoverished families in the Ugandan countryside and with refugees of the Sudanese civil war. The hope was that, by providing training for women on how to make soap with local ingredients, the two could spark interest in creating a company similar to Esperanza in Santo Domingo in the future.
Although Krista and Patrick had an extensive plan, there was only so much our team could do to prepare ahead. They were to enter new territory; a country and continent that neither of them (nor Esperanza!) had been to before, be exposed to languages they had never heard and immerse themselves in a culture that to them was incredibly foreign. There were also technical unknowns regarding the soap making project - Would they have electricity to run a blender and melt some of the oils? Can one buy coconut oil in a village in Northern Uganda? What do they call sodium hydroxide and how could we get it in bulk? Planning meetings became sessions of imagining different scenarios and what could go wrong - and how to respond to them.
To provide more context, Uganda is country with 41 million citizens and one of the poorest nations in the world. Comparatively, the Dominican Republic (where Esperanza already operates), has an average income 10 times higher than Uganda. Over 34% of Ugandans live on less than US $2 a day. In rural areas, families largely depend on small scale agriculture and women, when time allows, engage in small entrepreneurial activities to supplement their incomes. To complicate things a bit more, South Sudan, the neighboring country to the north, has been in a devastating civil war for 6 years and millions of refugees have poured into the northern Ugandan region seeking safety and creating an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
So, although Krista had been to the Dominican Republic and had seen Esperanza operating firsthand, she was aware that they’d be marching into something entirely different, a task that’d come with its own set of unique challenges. It’d be unrealistic to say that facing all these unknowns had been a breeze for the two of them, but they both did feel sure that the mission was something God had opened doors for them to be apart of and had faith that He would see them through. That, coupled with the desire to serve in a way that was bigger than themselves, encouraged Patrick and Krista to move forward. So, they submitted the journey and the mission into God’s hands and, on September 11th, boarded their plane.
Part two coming soon!